When Hard Skills Are in Short Supply
Be Flexible to Find the “Perfect” Candidate
In a perfect world, recruiting a candidate to fit a technical job opening goes something like this: You write the job description with a perfect balance of the job’s “needs” in addition to “nice-to-have’s.” You hand off the opening to your favorite IT recruiting company, sit back, and are soon presented with several pre-qualified candidates with impressive resumes.
After interviewing your top 3 picks, you bring back the most qualified candidate and make an offer which is eagerly accepted. Then you pat yourself on the back for another great hire.
Today, the process of finding top candidates rarely goes that smoothly. This seems to especially be the case when you have a job to fill that requires a rare, competitive set of technical skills.
So what exactly do you do when you’re presented with a list of solid candidates who frankly, just don’t look perfect on paper? To answer that question we have to look further into the age old debate: what’s more important—hard skills or soft skills?
Soft Skills or Hard Skills? What Sets Superior Performers Apart
The first thing you have to do (aside from reigning in your disappointment), is define the hard skills and soft skills required to do the job well.
Soft skills are known as a set of skills relating to a collection of personal, positive attributes and competencies that enhance relationships, job performance, and value to the market. Hard skills are a specific set of trainable abilities needed to carry out the technical requirements of a job.
When it becomes a challenge to find a candidate with the right hard skills, it becomes your job to assess and identify candidates who may not be the most “experienced,” but who have the potential to be the best overall fit with the right technical foundation.
The truth is, hard skills can be learned in school and from books. So if you’re unable to find a very specific technical skillet, find a candidate who is enthusiastic, trainable, and eager to learn. If the skills can be developed with a little training and mentorship, then hiring a solid, intelligent candidate is a smart move.
If You Can’t Find an Exact DNA Match, What Key Skills Should You Look For?
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need, writer and Professor Peter Cappelli states that companies “need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice.”
If a candidate is truly talented but doesn’t ideally fit the bill, take a look at their soft skills and think twice before writing them off. According to an article by MSN Career, the most impressive soft skills job candidates can possess are:
- Sense of humor
- Body language
In addition to the traits featured in the MSN article, we’d like to go one step further and contribute the soft skills and characteristics that we’ve seen in superior performers:
- Intelligence: Does the candidate have the ability to apply themselves and what they’ve learned? Can he or she acquire and utilize knowledge and skills?
- Sense of ownership: Great candidates have a good idea of what they’re capable of and how that fits into an organization. He or she should be able to communicate this trait through stories and examples.
- Analytical: Can the candidate grasp and process information quickly? Understanding and applying information in a tactical and strategic manner is an extremely important attribute.
In the end, if you have found a good fit (not a perfect fit) with a candidate who is eager to learn, possesses intelligence and is teachable, then make the hire. Odds are you won’t be disappointed.
About the Author
Joellyn “Joey” Sargent is principal of BrandSprout Advisors, a strategic marketing and management consulting firm that helps organizations maximize their market impact. Joey is a frequent speaker on branding, marketing and social media. She is regularly quoted in the media including Fox Business, CMO.com, Investors.com and Social Media Today. Joey blogs at www.Fresh-Sprouts.com and Windmill Networking. Connect on Twitter @BrandSprout or visit www.BrandSproutAdvisors.com.